Feb. 20, 2020

By State Rep. Aaron Bernstine, 10th Legislative District
Gov. Tom Wolf kicked off the 2020-21 state budget process this month by giving a speech to legislators in Harrisburg. This address is meant to set the tone for budget negotiations, but instead, he used the opportunity to rattle off a list of unrealistic asks which have no place in the budget process or in Pennsylvania.

What he “forgot” to mention was the massive increase in government spending and billions of dollars in debt in his proposal, as well as the freedoms he wants to take away from Pennsylvanians.

It’s easy to say “no” to the governor’s proposal, and if it were to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow, I can assure you I’d be a “hell no.” But saying “no” without presenting realistic solutions isn’t leading, which is what you, the taxpayer, elected me to do. So, here are my three main takeaways from Wolf’s budget proposal and the solutions I believe make more sense for Pennsylvania.

Problem: Excessive Spending Growth

This year, Gov. Wolf proposed spending $36.1 billion, which is a more than 6% increase over last year’s budget. To make matters worse, the governor also already spent nearly $600 million more than the enacted budget last year. There’s no question Harrisburg has a spending addiction.

Solution: Taxpayer Protection Act

Harrisburg tax-and-spend politicians have proven time and time again they can’t be trusted with a blank check from the taxpayers. Unchecked government spending only paves the way for future tax hikes and more reckless borrowing which drives businesses and residents to other states. Lawmakers can protect taxpayers from extreme spending and massive tax hikes for years to come by passing constitutional spending limits known as the Taxpayer Protection Act, which limits spending growth to the rate of inflation plus population growth.

Problem: Borrowing Against Future Generations

Gov. Wolf proposed borrowing $5.5 billion and spending all those funds during his term in office. The governor claims his budget does not include any new taxes, but we know debt doesn’t magically disappear. Pennsylvania’s debt currently totals $121 billion, or $9,000 per person. Harrisburg politicians are mortgaging the paychecks of our children and grandchildren with their excessive overspending and borrowing Ponzi scheme.

Solution: Address Budget Cost Drivers

Instead of taking the easy way out and racking up debt on the taxpayers’ credit card, we should be addressing areas of the budget that are eating up more and more tax dollars every year. We need additional pension reform, and we need to eliminate waste and abuse in our welfare system and move more able-bodied Pennsylvanians towards independence.

Problem: Gun Control

Gun control has no place in a budget speech. It has no place at all anywhere. Using the budget address to score political brownie points and threaten our constitutional right to bear arms is unacceptable. The Pennsylvania Constitution says, “the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” I will NEVER stop fighting to protect our second Amendment rights.

Solution: Second Amendment Municipalities

I have joined my colleagues in calling for passage of Second Amendment sanctuary municipality ordinances. These ordinances would protect residents from overreaching politicians and bureaucrats by nullifying any additional confiscation, taxation, restriction and registration of legally purchased firearms, ammunition and accessories. Just as important, they would prohibit spending financial resources to enforce these laws.

These are just a few of the problems in the budget proposal. There are many other non-starters, including his attacks on educational opportunities, western Pennsylvania jobs and hard-working taxpayers. I will continue to voice my concerns with the out-of-touch agenda in the months to come and advocate for real solutions. I invite you to join me in remaining vigilant and vocal about protecting Pennsylvanians from Harrisburg’s spending and government overreach.

Representative Aaron Bernstine
10th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Rick Leiner
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